About The Artist
Hoyt Scoggins was born in Lafayette, Georgia. He began playing the guitar and mandolin at the age of twelve. That all began when he picked up his uncle's guitar. His father, Murphy Scoggins, was always supportive and encouraged him with his musical efforts. At the age of seventeen, he was featured on a program in Summerville, Georgia on radio station WGTA. His show aired on Saturdays at noon and ran for 30 minutes. It was around this time that he also began composing and recording his own music.
We asked Hoyt - who inspired him when he got interested in music. Hoyt indicates that Roy Acuff was his idol, someone that inspired him. He said that he loved to hear Roy sing more than anyone in the business. He originally patterned his style combining hillbilly and gospel music, fun and frolic with a lot of comedy. He notes that he loved the sound of Roy Acuff's band, The Smoky Mountain Boys.
Another major influence in his musical life was his father, Murphy Scoggins. His dad was also an entertainer.
He began performing live in 1952 on WROM (TV-channel 9) in Rome, Ga. Hoyt noted in a 2009 interview celebrating his induction into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame that the owner of the station hired him on the spot in 1951 because a record he had done - Born Of The Spirit - was being aired two or three times a day for nearly a year in Calhoun. He continued the show for seven years as the band leader for "The Saturday Night Jamboree" until the owner sold the station. The station's signal ranged to about 100 - 125 miles. Later, the station was sold to investors in Chattanooga, Tennessee and moved the studios from Rome to Chattanooga.
One of Hoyt's favorite memories relates to Hank Williams. Hoyt and his wife, Jessie Mae, were special guests of Hank and Audrey Williams on a trip in the early 1950's to Nashville. They got to spend the day with Hank and Audrey at their home. Hoyt says it was one of the most enjoyable days of his life. They shared good food, fellowship, stories and of course a lot of music. Hank and Hoyt compared tunes and compositions along with singing a few. Hoyt recalls, "The Williams were the finest of hosts." To further help date this visit, Hank, Jr. (Bocephus) had not been born at the time.
Hoyt and Jessie Mae were busy during that trip to Nashville. Carl Smith and his wife at the time, June Carter, invited them over to their place to visit. Carl took Hoyt and Jessie Mae on a automobile tour of Nashville and the surrounding area. He drove them by various points of interest including the homes of other entertainers. Hoyt notes that Carl was one of his best friends.
During the years he appeared on WROM-TV, Hoyt composed and recorded several hit songs. Tennessee Rock and another lesser hit, Trudy, were released on the Starday record label.
His recording career began in 1954 for the Coosa label. He composed and released several gospel songs on Starday's custom press label. He also co-wrote songs with many others such as Walter Bailes, Jim Odom, George Abernathy, Hubert Stillwell, Bonnie Raines, E. Painter and others. Some examples of the tunes he co-wrote are in the following list.
He composed a number of gospel songs that were recorded by notable recording artists such as: The Kingsmen Quartet, The Oakridge Boys, and The Lewis Family along with many others.
Hoyt's first hit was on the Coosa label with the Kingsmen in 1954 entitled, The Pathway Is Not Crowded. He also recorded Born Of The Spirit on Starday. It was later recorded by The Oak Ridge Quartet, The Lewis Family and many others.
In 1956, Hoyt told Folk and Country Songs magazine readers that he and his wife Jessie Mae had two children, Tyrone and Dolan. They also had another child whose name we do not have at this time. Two of his children are musicians. He told readers he had shows on both radio and television (WROM-TV, channel 9) for WCGA (900 on the AM dial) in Calhoun, Georgia.
His career was seemingly on track to gain him more exposure to audiences. Aunt JemimaŽ offered him a national touring sponsorship. But, while making a final decision, he felt the Lord had a calling on his life. He yielded to the Lord and became a minister of the Gospel, an endeavor that continued for forty years before he finally retired.
It seemed his entertainment talents would also help him with his ministry. He focused on writing and singing gospel music almost from the very time he became interested in music in his childhood. It was a natural part of his character that he developed through bible study, church attendance and being among other believers. In the ministry, he recalls that he would include stories about how he was inspired to write his gospel tunes. He regularly performed his compositions during his ministry. His wife, Jessie Mae and their three children provided background music for the worship services. Hoyt has penned a number of other songs that have not been published or recorded. However, he continues to sing those songs regularly.
We asked Hoyt to share some of his memories from that early musical career. The smallest crowd he ever appeared in front of was all of 25 people. But he notes, they still put on the same show, no matter the number of people that showed up. He gave them the entertainment they deserved for their admission price.
One of his most memorable performances was the night he appeared at the Civic Center Auditorium in Cartersville, Georgia. That night, he got a standing ovation and two encores for two tunes he did - "Courtin' In The Rain" and "A Letter To The President".
Hoyt continued to take us down his memory lane by recalling some of his other favorite moments in his career. He appeared with Smiley Burnette for a month long Telethon on WROM (Channel 9) Rome, Georgia. He was a guest on Nashville's WSM (650 AM) on Tex Ritter's radio program, helping promote "The Old Chain Gang" release on the Starday label. He once did a personal appearance with Roy Rogers. On a number of occasions, he was the opening act for an Eddy Arnold appearance. He was the guest of artists such as Porter Waggoner, Patsy Cline, Deacon Freeman, Curley Kimsey, Monroe Blaylock, Country Music Hall of Famers Bill Anderson and Brenda Lee, Archie Campbell and James and Martha Carson.
He and his late wife, Jessie Mae served as pastors for many churches during those four decades. Hoyt and Jessie Mae had three children, all who have their own musical talents. Two sons, Tyrone and Dolan are musicians. Their daughter is Phebe, who is a singer in her own right and plays the piano. She recorded several tunes with Hoyt; one of the more popular ones was their version of Daddy Was An Old Time Preacher Man.
We asked Hoyt if he could provide some details about the recordings he did. He recalled there was no last minute preparation as there might be today when everyone arrives at the recording studio. Hoyt owned the Coosa, Dixie and Dobie record labels. That meant he had something many artists could only dream of - full control of the format and arrangements. He used his regular band and brought in other musicians when the situation arose.
They did not do any significant rehearsal of the tunes they were to record on a given day. When they determined the right key and pattern, the microphones and recorder were turned on; live recording followed. As a rule, there seemed to be no need for a second take since the first take was deemed ready to prepare the master. He said that he has no regrets on how his music was recorded; he probably wouldn't change a thing.
The Starday label had a studio in Rome, Georgia back then. Hoyt was very close to the manager of Starday and he recorded the same tunes that he did with his own label. Later, Hoyt sold his labels and masters to Starday.
Today, Hoyt is a member of Georgia Mountain Music Club in Rome, Georgia. He continues to perform each week at the Wednesday meeting.
You might ask Hoyt, what do you pick or sing when you're at home and just want to play a few tunes. When Hoyt picks up his D-41 Martin and strums a few chords, he'll sing a few of his compositions such as At Calvary, Mother Was Good And Faithful and Jesus Walked This Lonely Road. He'll also do a few tunes by his idol, Roy Acuff or Hank Williams' I Saw The Light.
He was inducted into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame in November 2009. He commented that he considered himself a bluegrass man that loved to sing and play his guitar - a talent and spirit that carried him through nearly 70 years in the music business.
Credits & Sources
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